Nature is Unfair
We Don't Have to Be
If nature endowed me with any particular gift more valuable than the rest, I would say it is my bullshit detector. This very thing is what brings so many of us together here on substack1, and is one of the most convenient and accessible concentrations of free and independent thought in the history of the known universe. It is in this spirit that I want to write about a particularly subtle piece of bullshit that I have detected from two prominent individuals with significant repercussions. There is an assumption that these two influential men have that speaks to a weakness of character. They allow this weakness to seduce them into seeking unfair advantage over their fellow man while consoling themselves that doing so is only natural. Perhaps for beasts, but we are men, and our ability to parlay with one another in a direct and candid manner towards mutual profit is what sets us apart. Call it the spark of the divine or a natural consequence of the forces from which our consciousness and executive function emerged, the end result is the same. We are different, and we owe it to God, nature, or simply ourselves to live up to this potential.
“Everyone Wants An Edge”
I’ve been watching the Shawn Ryan Show on my daily incline treadmill walks and I’ve got to say, it’s great content. I was interested to see a gentlemen that goes by Andrew Bustamante that previously worked in the National Clandestine Service (NSC) in the CIA being interviewed because of the intersection between my deep skepticism of the Intelligence Community (IC)2 and my appreciation of individuals taking skills from the public sector and applying them to the private sector. The interview started by covering Andrew’s background and transitioned into some discussion of geopolitics that was interesting, but not particularly notable from my perspective. I wasn’t really intrigued by anything in the interview until Shawn asked about Andrew’s business Everyday Spy. The relevant portion of the transcript follows with minor edits to make it read less like a transcript, emphasis mine (and link to the video if you just want to watch):
Everyday spy is the business that I created with my wife after we left the CIA and what we learned is that the skills and tactics that CIA taught us, not necessarily the skills and tactics in terms of shooting and driving, but social skills and mental tactics. Those have become the foundation of our success since leaving CIA. Influence, persuasion, relationship building, being able to predict human behavior, being able to control human behavior being able to direct outcomes like these are all very valuable skills in the commercial sector and in civilian life. Equally as valuable as they are in Espionage.
So what we found is that we started having success in corporate America and then when we became entrepreneurs we started having success in our entrepreneurial lives applying these skills, so everyday spy is essentially our platform to teach the same skills that we've seen work in espionage tailored to Everyday Life and that's what everyday spy is…
We've had success working with Executives, we've had success working with with corporate teams, we've had success working with entrepreneurs from the startup phase to the ultra high net worth phase, and all levels in between because what ends up happening is at our core what we're all looking for all the time is an edge, an advantage and socially we don't like to talk about that. Socially we think everything should be fair and equal rights, especially in the United States. If you if you walked up to a stranger and said “I actually want to have an unfair advantage over you” nobody wants to hear that yeah but that's what we're all secretly thinking, right? What Espionage is all about is gaining an unfair advantage. All the skills that CIA taught us, the mental skills, the social skills, we're all focused on an unfair Advantage. How do you infiltrate a network gain influence gain credibility and take control of that Network in the shortest amount of time? You don't do that over a 30-year career doing what the boss tells you. You do that in like three years by making the boss believe that your ideas are the best ideas.
On the surface this might seem pretty reasonable. I myself advocate for developing and using these same types of cognitive skills in order to improve performance over at H2F Man, so what’s the difference? The difference is the why, and this differences cuts right through the line that separates good from evil. Myopic fools can trick themselves into thinking that why we do things doesn’t matter by focusing on the primacy of outcomes. What they fail to appreciate is that as human beings, we can’t divorce the why from the how. For every action we take, the why perpetually feeds back into how such skills end up being employed. If the why you reference to justify and employ these skills is to gain an unfair advantage, we might expect that ashes will fall in your wake.
“A Drop of Compassion”
In another exchange, former FBI negotiator Chris Voss highlights the contrast between the Machiavellian lust for an unfair advantage assumed to be universal by Andrew above, and the parsimonious solution to human conflict embedded within empathy to the moral ignoramus Lex Fridman. (Again, emphasis mine and video link for those who’d rather watch):
Chris: You're never going to get through to somebody… unless you can demonstrate to them you understand where they're coming from, whether or not you agree. Early 90’s… terrorist case New York City civilian court… I'm getting ready, we have Muslims testifying in open court against a legitimate Muslim cleric. The guy that was on trial had the credentials as a legitimate Muslim cleric. The people who were testifying against him didn't think he should be advocating murder of innocent people. We'd sit down with them, Arab Muslims, Egyptians mostly, and I would say to them: “You believe that there's been a succession of American governments for the last 200 years, that are anti-Islamic” they'd shake their head and go, “yeah!” and that would be the start of the conversation. That's empathy. You believe this to be the case. I never said I agreed. I never said I disagreed… I showed them that I wasn't afraid of their beliefs. I was so unafraid of them that I was willing to just state them and not disagree or contradict, because I would say that and then I'd shut up and let them react. I never had to say: Here's why you're wrong. I never gave my point of view. Every single one of them… testified. That's empathy. Not agreeing with where the other side is coming from. I'm not sure how Sam would define it, but common vernacular is its sympathy and its compassion and that's when it becomes useless.
Lex: There is a gray area, maybe you can comment on it… sometimes a drop of compassion helps make that empathy more effective in the conversation. So you're just saying you believe X doesn't quite form a strong of a bond with the other person.
Chris: You're imagining it doesn't.
Lex: Maybe you're, right. Yes I'm imagining it doesn't. I'm imagining you need to show that you're on the same side… that you need to signal a little bit about your actual beliefs, at least in that moment, even if that signaling is… not as deep as it sounds… but at first, you know, basically patting the person on the back and saying “we're on the same side brother.”
Chris: You know that's what most people [think] when they're really learning the concept. That's the basic human reaction… and in application, especially in highly adversarial situations… [if I’m negotiating with a regular Muslim guy], how's that guy gonna… buy it if I [say] “I'm on your side. I've been there. I feel you.” No no no no no, people get conned by that so much… If we're on opposite sides of the table and I try to act like I'm not on the opposite side of the table that makes me disingenuous, so I would rather be honest… my currency is integrity. At some point in time if you go “you know where I'm coming from?” My answer is going to be: “Look, I can agree on maybe where we're going, but if we're talking about you know, am I on your side now as a human being? I want to see you survive and thrive, [just] not at my expense. I think the world is full of opportunity. I’m optimistic. I’ve got more than enough reason for saying that. [There] is enough… for both of us. So I got no problem with you getting yours, you know, just don't take it out of my hide… I'm going to be honest about both of those things… I don't need to be on your side except in a in a human sense, but I don't have to side with you over the war, or the how we distribute the stock, or how much you get paid, or how much you make off this car. My experience as a layman is that empathy has not got a downside… You don't you don't need me to act like I'm on your side for us to make a great deal.
The Tangled Webs We Weave
I’m not trying to make the argument that lying and defrauding your fellow man can’t result in material advantages. We all know that it can. My argument is that doing so isn’t required in order to obtain the material wealth you need to live a prosperous life. I also argue that it isn’t possible to live a spiritually aligned life if you target fraud as a legitimate social strategy. To be clear, when Andrew states everyone seeks unfair advantages and Lex signals how he intentionally deceives those he calls “brother,” they both place deception and fraud at the center of their respective social strategies. The justification they provide to themselves is no doubt grounded in utilitarianism. They imagine that everyone successful does this, and that the most successful people naturally do this the most. In the context of late stage bureaucracy, this might seem more plausible than ever, but it is just an illusory artifact that lives in the widening gap between perception and reality. You cannot become a fully realized human being until you recognize that it is impossible to blur the lines between cooperation and coercion without losing yourself in the process. In other words, you can’t internalize the idea that it is legitimate to use coercion to get what you want.
The Clarity of Integrity
Contrary to what primitive understandings of behavioral economy and value may have convinced the foolish and immoral to believe, the success of others needn't come at your expense, nor your success at the expense of theirs. Lessons from praxeology and modern neuropsychology can elucidate this truth for those who have the time and inclination to learn, but nothing will clarify the truth so thoroughly as practicing integrity for yourself. If you guard against the perverse desire to profit at the expense of others while diligently monitoring for hypocrisy and self-delusion, any success you encounter becomes the most satisfying proof you could hope for. Ultimately, as human beings, we have many needs and desires. Almost all of these require at least some input from others in order to be satisfied. This is a perpetual source of conflict because the means to satisfy these needs and desires are limited by nature. There are fundamentally two ways in which such conflict can be resolved, via cooperation, or via coercion3. The only way to interact with others and maintain your integrity is to resolve conflicts cooperatively. When confronted by coercion from another, then you are faced with an additional obligation. Coercion must be proportionally resisted. As the saying goes, for evil to prevail, all that is required is for good men to do nothing. Acquiescence to coercion is just as sure of a path to ruin as engaging in it yourself.4
Accepting the Inequality of Nature
Benefiting from the gifts endowed by nature serves all of humanity so long as they are employed towards achieving mutual profit. When these gifts are employed to gain an advantage orthogonal to the efficient execution of some profitable enterprise, the result is disproportionate loss.5 We have base instincts that provide us with a sense of what is fair. Unfortunately, as we all know perhaps too well, nature is incredibly unfair. The temptation to do something about this cosmic injustice is ironically the greatest source of true injustice that we are fated to perpetually contend with throughout our time in this world.6 This paradox has confounded the minds of the many in no small part because it is a well-spring of efficient self-deception. So many believe themselves paragons as they employ coercion to ameliorate cosmic injustice. What better way to justify theft, rape, and murder than to convince yourself that the victims of your vile deeds deserve it? This perverse construction allows otherwise good men to skin the hides off their fellow man and wear them not with shame, but with great pride. By failing to accept nature as it is, these beasts are able to profit from a vast array of crimes against their fellow man so long as it is in the name of progressing towards some unattainable cosmic justice.7 All the while they have convinced themselves that this state of affairs is sustainable. I am simultaneously concerned and relieved by my strong conviction that it is not.
The Past is Part of Nature
Just like nature, you can’t change the past with which it is inextricably linked. Attempts to do so are really no different than the various denials of biological reality that globohomo seeks to force us to endure through a variety of coercive applications across the legal and information spaces.8 We look at slavery and recognize the inherent injustice that such a practice entails. We see the treatment of the American Indians and appreciate the same. Those injustices have already played out, at least in America. We are where we are, and there is nobody alive today who is responsible for all of the particular atrocities that transpired in conjunction with the buying and selling of human beings as property in the Americas nor the wholesale conquering of an entire landmass by one people over another through force of arms. Trying to hold descendants responsible for such events, while tempting, is folly. We cannot know the untold horrors that our ancestors both endured and perpetrated over the eons. A reckoning in the name of cosmic justice is therefore impossible. Pursuing such a reckoning in spite of this unassailable fact only ensures that we can never enjoy true justice in our lifetimes. We have no choice but to reject this path of folly so many have embarked upon that obviates the only chance we have to live in a free and just world. Embarking upon the path of wisdom requires the beautiful lie of cosmic justice to be abandoned. This dramatized encounter between Chief Sitting Bull and Colonel Nelson Miles gives a taste of the rhetoric we so desperately need to appreciate this harsh reality.
Cultivating Virtue and Competence
Without an alternative framing to the myopic perspective advanced by Lex and Andy we’re in constant danger of being sucked into the yawning vortex of evil and despair that lusts to consume the souls of the unwary and foolish. The framing I offer is simple, but might make you feel like an evil bastard if you ever entertained the alternative. You only need to recognize two things in order to appreciate this tonic perspective.
You are the only one who can leverage your blessed strengths and overcome your cursed weaknesses in the persistent journey to cultivate virtue and enhance competence.
Recognize why you must do this: It is the only hope you have to profit in the service of others (that is, morally, sustainably, and with integrity).
The implications of this framing are substantial. Instead of asking yourself “what do I have to do to get this job” you start asking “how can I be worthy of this job?” If you’re competing for market share, are you willing to get it at the expense of your customers, or will you forego such a play until you’re confident that your product or service is superior to what is offered by your competitors? Even in love, would you take someone’s hand in marriage knowing you’re not the best match, or would you have the integrity to wait until you were sure that you could fulfill the responsibilities ensconced within those sacred vows better than any other?
The Noble Edge
Cultivating virtue and enhancing competence does provide you with an edge. The difference here is that this advantage is not in any way unfair. You prove the fairness of your advantages by delivering on your promises. If you convince your boss that you have the best ideas, you damned well better have the best ideas. If you build a connection with someone on the premise that you’re on their side, you had better fucking be on their side. There are no mental skills or tactics that are off limits if they are employed in this fashion. If you find yourself in the midst of a negotiation and you end up getting more than you would have otherwise using these tactics, that is fine as long as you’re not taking it out of anyone's hide. The reason empathy works so well is that we have a difficult time believing that someone could understand our position and intentionally screw us over anyway.9 People act like being Machiavellian is clever or tough. It isn’t. Its stupid/evil, and you’re a moral midget if you can’t see it.
If you can’t get what you need out of life without using coercion, then you have two acceptable strategies to pursue:
You can manage your expectations by dialing in your discernment to differentiate between what you need and what you desire.
You can put in the work to make yourself worth a damn.
Some people won’t have to put in nearly the same amount of work in order to be worth a damn. This is one of the things that is meant when when we say life isn’t fair. If you can accept this truth without resentment or jealousy and simply do what you can with the tools you’ve been given, then you suddenly have access to a most useful moral compass. If you keep this compass by your side and reference it often, where nature falls short, you can deliver by being consistently fair. Further, you can very easily recognize when others are off course, no matter how good they may be at pretending otherwise.
Lemons to Lemonade
While many dark and negative emotions such as jealously and resentment are intentionally inflamed by the very cretins who embody them so thoroughly, it doesn’t have to be this way. The inequality imposed by nature doesn’t need to be some tragic thing. Instead, it can be seen as the opportunity that it truly is. Our very inequality is the foundation for a thriving human civilization. We trade and exchange because of our differences, not in spite of them. We work and strive towards excellence that has the capacity to benefit our fellow man only because there is such a thing as excellence in the first place. Embracing our differences and the comparative advantages they confer is a noble endeavor. The exploitative hacks who run the show behind this GAE rainbow curtain promulgate lies that corrupt, twist, and pervert this underlying truth.10 If we can accept that these differences11 are not the cause of our strife, but the ultimate source of prosperity, then we can finally embark upon a sustainable path forward.
and no doubt one of the reasons it is under attack by the sniveling shitweasels over at the ADL.
There was a time when I thought the IC was super cool and I would’ve been stoked to work in that space. Aside from generally learning about Austrian economics and gradually adopting a realist perspective on politics in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, there was another key event that turned me around. I enrolled in a course/seminar that had a focus on national security that was instructed by a recently retired-at-30-years CIA intelligence analyst. One of the assigned readings was the book Legacy of Ashes, which basically details how everything the CIA has done that had been declassified up to that time was an absolute disaster for national security. I figured if that level of insider endorsed this book, it was probably worth paying attention to. To this day I am deeply skeptical that the IC does anything to promote American national security, and am, in fact, quite convinced that the American people would be better off without it. My confidence of this is perhaps not so unrelated to the content of this essay.
Anything involving deception is inherently coercive. If goods and services are exchanged under certain terms, those are the only terms by which the transaction can take place in a cooperative framework. As soon as one side is deceived as to the nature of the goods or services being exchanged, then this constitutes a form of theft proportional to the delta between the nature of the goods and/or services as presented and reality. As with all instances where perception departs from reality, resolving such disputes is a perpetual challenge. This is why our court system in the U.S. is so valuable, and why the recent assaults upon it evidenced by the railroading of political defendants in both civil and criminal cases combined with the failure to hold criminals obviously guilty of coercive crime is so concerning. It leaves us without a way of effectively resolving complex disputes.
This is one prominent reason why 2A is non-negotiable.
Opportunity cost at the very least, often more.
The only conception of the word “justice” that resonates with me is the traditional conception. If you’re interested in a more thorough treatment of the mutually exclusive conceptions of justice that constitute the zeitgeist, see this video illustration of a classic Thomas Sowell talk.
Hopefully this is yet another useful way to explain the otherwise perplexing outward denial of biological reality continually reiterated by the regime.
For an examination of the coercive censorship apparatus that has been deployed in force, see the exposition of Mike Benz. With respect to legal coercion the stories of the following individuals are informative: Richard Jewel, Michael Flynn, Blackwater Four, Douglass Mackey, and now Donald Trump.
This is why psychopaths are so dangerous if they learn how to use context to articulate the perspectives of others. A healthy society can contain this threat through normative means. Currently, the threat is not contained. In fact, I believe that power has become concentrated into the hands of such individuals, and their ability to game the foundation of pro-social interaction and cooperation is one of the principle dynamics accelerating us towards disaster.
I speak of course of the DIE message.
That could easily also be called “inequality”